Property Taxes One of Many Topics at Farmers Union Convention

The president of the Nebraska Farmers Union says it's hard to predict which issues will dominate 2012 ag discussions, but at this year's annual state convention he said there's one issue they're sure to talk about: property taxes.

"There's going to be an ongoing discussion about property taxes, especially with land values skyrocketing," said Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen.

Ag leaders say it's a double-edged sword: high crop prices and record level farm incomes have driven the value of ag land up. But with those increased valuations comes increased property taxes, something producers and policy makers are talking about, and will likely keep talking about as the new year begins.

"Ag is paying a disproportionate share of the total cost of K-12 education, that's an ongoing issue," said Hansen.

Governor Dave Heineman told the Farmers Union convention that it's unlikely to become a legislative issue.

"Let's not forget, property taxes are decided at the local level," said Heineman. "They're locally spent, locally collected, locally assessed."

He says that means producers will have to look at local spending first.

"If you want to hold the line on property taxes, I've served in local government, that means city councils, county boards, and school boards have to tighten their belt, because that's what forces higher property taxes," said Heineman.

A report from UNL's Department of Ag Economics says in the last 5 years Nebraska's all-land average has doubled to over $1800 an acre.

Governor Heineman told convention-goers the future is "bright" for Nebraska ag, but he and other leaders say it's only a matter of time until things slow down and prices drop off.

The convention continues on Saturday starting at 8:30. Speakers will focus on beef checkoff, renewable energy, financial reform, and the Farmers Union's agreement with the Humane Society of the United States.

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